August 30, 2007

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

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A vigil to commemorate the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was held yesterday in Anabel Taylor Hall. The event was organized by the Cornell students who traveled with Hillel and Black Students United on the trip to help rebuild New Orleans after the disaster. Approximately 40 people attended.
One student sang “Amazing Grace” as a slideshow played of pictures taken by the students during their visit to New Orleans August 8-14. The 24 students worked with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild a building that was once a school. For the next three years, the building will serve as a housing unit for volunteers before returning to its original function as a middle school.
Trip co-founder Amy Pearlman ’09 said in her opening remarks that the trip and vigil were meant to show that the students are “committed to spreading awareness” of the aftermath of the hurricane. She also said that despite the politics surrounding efforts to rebuild the city, “It is our responsibility to spread the word that [New Orleans] still needs help.”
Enongo A. Lumumba-Kasongo ’08, BSU senior co-president, said in addition to rebuilding New Orleans, the trip was a good way to form bonds between black and Jewish students, members of groups she said “have both been oppressed historically.”
Pearlman agreed.
“We became good friends with each other,” said Pearlman, noting that the two groups will maintain their relationship by inviting each other to events they hold. She also said that the students will hold programs throughout the year to continue fostering an awareness of all that still needs to be done in the area affected by the hurricane.
Pearlman and trip co-founder Daniel Baer ’08 planned the visit to New Orleans with the intention of asking BSU students to join due to what Pearlman called “the issues of unequal aid and gentrification,” brought up in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Lumumba-Kasongo said she “was impressed with the amount of students who stepped up to the plate” by giving up a week of their summer breaks to help rebuild the city.
After a moment of silence in which the attendees lit memorial candles, everyone was invited to share their own stories of their experiences with the hurricane. Students tearfully told of the destruction they saw in New Orleans and the way the Louisianans thanked them for their efforts.
Lauren Rosenblum ’11, a New Orleans native, echoed these sentiments, saying that Hurricane Katrina helped her “realize how good people really can be;” she thanked the students, saying, “Each volunteer means a lot.”
The event concluded with a reading of a prayer whose final words were, “The time is always right to do the right thing” before a student sang, “Lean on Me.”
Lumumba-Kasongo called the vigil “extremely successful,” adding, “It shows that Cornell students really do care.”